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NO-BAKE COOKIES ARE TEMPTING FOR ADULTS, TOO

Lalena Price was desperate for what she called "the easiest recipe in the universe."

"All I want is that simple recipe for no-bake chocolate oatmeal cookies -- you know, the kind the elementary school cooks make with oats, peanut butter, cocoa and such," the reader from Charleston, W.Va., said. "I can find it nowhere."

This is indeed one of the easiest cookies we know of -- a one-pot wonder that children crave. And it just so happens children aren't the only ones who crave it. So does Beverly. She's been known to be so desperate as to eat the batter right out of the pot, ignoring the requisite half-hour the cookies need to stand on the counter to firm up.

Making these cookies is especially easy if you use a utensil called a cookie-dough scoop, sold for about $3 at kitchen shops and department stores. It looks like a miniature ice-cream scoop and turns out uniform cookies in a flash.

Here are the other keys to success: Be sure to use quick oats (not old-fashioned oats and not the instant oatmeal mix that comes in paper pouches). Don't substitute low-fat peanut butter, skim milk or margarine. The cookies need the fat called for in the recipe for texture. Don't boil the batter any longer than two minutes or your cookies will firm up before you can get them out of the pot.

Since Easiest No-Bake Cookies only take 15 minutes to assemble, this is the perfect recipe for those times when you need a quick treat for the bake sale, your child's class party or to satisfy an emergency sweet tooth.

EASIEST NO-BAKE COOKIES

1/2 cup peanut butter

2 2/3 cups uncooked quick oats

1stick unsalted butter

1 3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup cocoa

1/2 cup low-fat milk

pinch of salt

1teaspoon vanilla extract

wax paper
Measure out the peanut butter and oats and set aside.

Cut the butter into 4 pieces and place in a 4 1/2 -quart Dutch oven or soup pot over medium-low heat. Add the sugar, cocoa, milk and salt. Raise the heat to medium-high. Stir until well-combined, then continue to stir frequently until the mixture comes to a boil, about 4 minutes.

Reduce the heat to medium and boil the mixture for exactly 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the peanut butter and vanilla until completely incorporated. Stir in the oats until completely mixed.

Place 2 sheets of wax paper about 18 inches long on the counter. Use a cookie-dough scoop or a heaping tablespoon to drop the cookie mixture onto the wax paper.

Let the cookies stand at room temperature until firm, about 30 minutes. Makes 30 cookies.

Approximate values per serving: 127 calories (40 percent from fat), 6 grams fat (3 grams saturated), 8 milligrams cholesterol, 2 grams protein, 18 grams carbohydrates.

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